The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa is a speculative fiction novel that tackles a world in which memory is controlled by an outside force and is able to make things disappear. Ogawa intricately weaves moments of fragility with those of resistance as the island begins to unravel into a void of being forgotten. The narrator, a novelist, has lost her mother and begins to find meaning in keeping secret her editor who is able to remember events/things. As the Memory Police continue to crack down on what exists and what is forgotten, the narrator loses her best friend, her job, and eventually her own body. I was impressed with the way the story the narrator is writing parallels what she is experiencing up until the last moments. Both characters lose themselves, but one keeps her voice. Though, in the end, both characters disappear all the same.
Ogawa works to question authority, namely, who has the authority to determine what disappears and what doesn’t, who is affected by the disappearances (the Memory Police isn’t), and why those in position are able to create such a culture of loss. Ogawa seems to be challenging current forms of policing and seems to elicit scenes of those hiding Jews during World War II. I enjoyed the way she describes the disappearances, and that cliff of disconnection with the editor. And the overall effect is this eeriness that blankets every action and description.
Final Rating: 4/5
Maxwell Suzuki is a writer, poet, and photographer based in Los Angeles.